Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 3:30pm

What is Sue and Settle?

"Sue and Settle" refers to when a federal agency agrees to a settlement agreement, in a lawsuit from special interest groups, to create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process.  The agency intentionally relinquishes statutory discretion by committing to timelines and priorities that often realign agency duties.  These settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties.

As an example, between 2009 and 2012, EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups.  These cases resulted in settlement agreements and EPA publishing more than 100 new regulations - including the recent Clean Power Plan.

Recent Notices of Intent to Sue on EPA's Website

3/8/2017 CAA, Sierra Club
For failure to conduct triennial reports to congress on Environmental and Conservation Impacts of the Renewable Fuel Standard and failure to conduct Anti-Backsliding Analysis or determine if mitigation measures are necessary.
2/23/2017 CAA, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and Air Alliance Houston
For failure to timely grant or deny a petition to object to Part 70 Operating Permit issued to the ExxonMobil Corporation for the Baytown Refinery in Hanis County, Texas.
2/14/2017 CAA, Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Environmental Health
For failure to make “bump up” determinations for Philadelphia and Washington D.C. marginal nonattainment areas for the 2008 ozone NAAQS.
2/9/2017 CAA, Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club
For Failure to Timely Grant or Deny a Petition to Object to Part 70 Operating Permit for the Welsh Power Plant in Titus County, Texas.
For a full list of EPA's Notices of Intent to Sue, visit

What is New in Sue and Settle?

    February 2017

    See all -- Sue and Settle News Archive

    What are the Economic Implications of our Findings?

    Interactive List of All Sue & Settle Cases

    Also see this alternate table, which lists court cases resolved by agency action in response to legal challenges.

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